Pandemic Pondering #219


Speedwell is a light installation located on Mount Batten Breakwater.

It can be seen from many parts of Plymouth but is perhaps best seen from near the Citadel west of The Barbican.

Speedwell: Largescale artwork transforms Plymouth coastline to explore legacy of The Mayflower

Follow the link above to read about the thoughts behind the Artwork.

Briefly Speedwell was a ship destined to make the journey to the New World but was considered not to be seaworthy. The Mayflower was used to sail the settlers to the New World and grabbed the headlines.

Three words are illuminated in a random sequence and are there to provoke thoughts about many things both historical and contemporary.

The installation will be in situ for 3 months. The words do make you think, particularly on a day when Britain tightens controls on public freedom as part of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Thought provoking enough whenever this artwork was commissioned , unexpectedly pertinent currently.

Pandemic Pondering #218

No New Worlds is a new art installation in Plymouth it has a profound message which deserves its own blog. Contrarily @theoldmortuary has discovered new worlds while the installation was being constructed. We first encountered it when we went on the Dockyards and Warships boat trip. A New World, or an old world rediscovered for us. The installation was being constructed on the Mountbatten Break Water, we saw it as we sailed out of Plymouth Sound, at the time we didn’t know it was a significant commissioned Art Work.

Another New World for us is open water or Wild Swimming. We can see the sign from many of our new found bathing spots.

As an aside I had a very strange swim today which was also a bit of a new world. Maybe a little Queen World.

While swimming at Devils Point I was suddenly surprised by HMS Albion steaming towards me, towed by two powerful tugs. It is not every day that I am saluted by an entire ships company as I bob along in the sea. Obviously they were doing the salutations just for me. I so enjoyed the moment I couldn’t take a photo until the ship had passed by. A ship’s backside is an interesting change from the usual dog bottom in this blog.

Apparently this ship is the Swiss Army Knife of the Royal Navy. That’s quite a claim, I wonder where the corkscrew is?

I can say that not only did I experience a moment of Queenliness with the delightfully polite young persons saluting me. I also experienced a bit of Dolphinliness, the ship created quite a vibration in the water and some waves.

Another New World for @theoldmortuary was visiting the Mount Batten Breakwater, a place we had never visited before. We went to be up close to the Artwork to research and photograph for the proper blog tomorrow.

The installation is called Speedwell.

Pandemic Pondering #218

Insomnia and vivid dreaming are known side effects of the Covid-19 restrictions. I need to add an odd one to these but first a little about my blog writing. Most days, the next days blog is ready to publish by five past midnight. Occasionally I leave writing the blog until the morning, sometime before 8 am. Both methods work equally well. This weekend vivid dreaming affected the early morning writing of blog Pandemic Pondering #216. I already knew that it would be a brief blog with blue as the theme. A reason for confidently leaving the writing to the early morning. Imagine my horror when the pictures I planned to put in the blog did not exist in my phone. They had been part of a vivid dream!

PP#216 was about Wild Swimming and a much needed coffee afterwards. In my vivid dream, there was a beach just around the corner from Stonehouse where we buy our weekend coffees. I’ve managed to find pictures from my archive to augment reality.

This beach was tolerably pebbly but the best thing about the beach in the vivid dream was the option of renting a Beach hut by the day.

The texture of our beach hut was charmingly distressed.

It was two pictures like this that I searched for in the archive when I woke up to write the blog.

This is not the first time a morning written blog has been thwarted by my brain doing overtime at night.

I have a lifelong obsession with beach huts, starting with Frinton-on- Sea on the Essex Coast, followed by the South Coast between Brighton and Worthing, then the Kent coast at Whitstable. Interspersed by the beach huts of the Norfolk and Suffolk coast which are the ones I’ve substituted for the non-existent, in the real world, Plymouth ones. Plymouth does have beach/ coastal cabins which are built into the cliffs around Plymouth Sound and fabricated from concrete with sturdy doors, nothing like my fantasy but I’m sure gorgeous in their own way. The vivid dream even gave me a texture to its imagined doors. Knowing full well that I love a bit of distressed and weathered wood.

I’m not sure if these blog related dreams are in fact my subconscious berating me for not having the blog written before sleep. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could rent beach huts by the day. Even better if they were in Plymouth just round the corner from Stonehouse.

In real life I’ve probably not spent more than four hours in a beach hut, my obsession is built on pure imagination, gleaned from novels and looking into other people’s tiny coastal dream spaces with envy.

Pandemic Pondering#217


What a wonderful word. So much more exciting than Varnishing Day

I’ve received an email with the instructions for a Winter Exhibition that I will submit some paintings to.

Instead of a Private View the exhibition will have a Varnishing Day.

Each exhibiting artist will be able to take a friend/relative/Patron/collector to see the exhibition a day before the opening of the exhibition to the public.

It is an old tradition, associated with the Royal Academy in London, revamped for the Coronovirus era. Vernissage is the French word for Varnishing Day. A day when artists would visit the exhibition and varnish/finish paintings in situ and show their friends and patrons the new seasons work. Ultimately Varnishing Day turned into the more contemporary Private View so it is intriguing that with Coronovirus restrictions the only way to allow artists the opportunity to see the lay out of an exhibition is to revert to a more controllable format.

Not that Varnishing Day was always controllable in history. The Royal Academy in London saw Turner deliver paintings that required more than finishing off and his spot off with Constable is a notable art moment when he added with a flourish a red buoy to a seascape. Constable had taken 15 years to paint his picture painstakingly and felt the snub of Turner’s swift embellishment.

Knowing the cattiness and ill concealed competitiveness of the art world Turner and Constable cannot have been the only disagreeable moment in the Royal Academies long history of Varnishing Days. Nothing is recorded, it seems what happens at Varnishing Day stays at Varnishing Day.

Literature and in particular novels about real or imaginary artists portray Varnishing Day as a far more hedonistic event, which seems more likely given the heady mix of artists, wealthy patrons and hangers on. The proximity of The Royal Academy to Piccadilly, the pleasure centre of London for centuries makes it unlikely that Varnishing Day was ever a sedate affair.

Plymouths own Joshua Reynolds the very first President of the Royal Academy was known for leading quite a colourful life of excess. He probably preferred the word Vernissage too.

Pandemic Pondering #216

Up early today for a sea swim off Plymouth Hoe.

Covid-19 has not, thankfully attacked us personally with its Spiky little viral sphere, but it has altered our lives significantly and forever. One of the more acceptable changes is a new found love of swimming in the sea; or wild swimming as it is now known.

Weekends used to be about getting a good cup of coffee to start the weekend. Now the Coffee has a higher purpose, to warm us up after a dip.

And for today’s brief blog it gave me a colour theme.

With an icon of 2020 and a motoring classic.

Happy weekend.

Pandemic Pondering #215

The Pandemic conundrum that is spitting. @theoldmortuary is opposite a pub, a normal sort of pub , regular clients, occasional live music which attracts non regulars and the passing trade of Church attenders for weddings, funerals and baptisms. A pub that causes no antisocial behaviour of note within the community. However some men attending the pub seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to spit either on the way in or on the way out . This was pretty dire before Covid-19 landed on our shores but now it just seems like the purpetrators of the spit somehow don’t grasp the increased significance of their vulgarity.

I’ve Googled ,so you don’t have to, Deep Throat Saliva still shows traces of active virus after 20 days in laboratory conditions. Obviously our local tarmac is somewhat more rugged than a laboratory but then to be fair some of the Saliva we get deposited locally comes from way further than deep throat. It wouldn’t surprise me to find portions of lung outside the pub or on the approaching pavements. Others chaps hawking echoes around their sinuses as they search for mucous and slime to deposit rancidly in the local landscape.

Rural Cornwall does not suffer in quite the same way as places with bigger concentrations of population or indeed China and other parts of Asia. But surely we should have Zero Tolerance to this filthy habit particularly during the Pandemic.

Rant over…

Illustrations from the archive of droplets of a nicer sort.

Pandemic Pondering #214

Life took @theoldmortuary to a cemetery this morning. The weather was shocking for September and a dense fog filled every nook and cranny . Taking the dogs for a scenic walk was pointless so we took a walk in a cemetery that began its existence to accommodate the dead from a different sort of Public Health Crisis

The Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse Cemetery was set up to alleviate overcrowding in church graveyards. 400 victims of the Cholera outbreak of 1848 are buried there.

This morning it was atmospheric to say the least and I did find a grave of the Baskerville family. Probably no coincidence that Stonehouse GP Arthur Conan Doyle used that wonderful surname in the title of his novel The Hound of the Baskerville’s, set in nearby Dartmoor.

Actual or literary Baskerville’s aside the morning had an aura of Victorian drama.

Ford Park Cemetery as it is now known needs continued burials to enable it to stay viable.

Prepaying gets you the sort of receipt that would be hard to tuck into a pocket or wallet.

The fog filled nearly the whole day but by 4pm the sun finally chased it away and by sunset I managed an entirely more cheery photo of a bird, in contrast to the morning bird of gloom.

The Seagull was perched on the perimeter of The Royal William Yard which was completed just 15 years before the Cholera outbreak in Plymouth. Plymouth , in common with many other cities had a growing population in the mid 19th Century and became overcrowded Cholera is caused by water born bacteria. People in overcrowded areas drinking water that is contaminated by a cocktail of filth both biological and industrial are highly susceptible.

Residents and workers at the Royal William Yard would be safer and luckier than other Plymouth inhabitants, because the Royal William Yard had its own reservoir for fresh water. The Western Kings Reservoir.

So in a wonderful coincidence my two pictures of birds taken today demonstrate rather nicely the benefits of safe drinking water.

Which leads me serendipitously to an article in The Guardian.

In contrast to the drear of the morning the evening took vivid to heart. Pessimism to Optimism in 12 hours.

Pandemic Pondering #213

I don’t know quite how to describe pleasures enjoyed when alone. This morning, in England and Wales, pupils returned to school after five months away . Twice, on my 8am drive through urban areas, the fragrance of multiple , simultaneous makings of toast and butter were transfixing . I only had dogs for company so was unable to share conversation about the unusual pleasure of smelling toast. Created, I’m sure, by many houses being on the same schedule for the first time in ages and the continuing lower levels of traffic and pollution. The dogs , of course, experienced the smell of toasted bread far more vividly than me but didn’t feel the need to talk to me about it or even amongst themselves.

I also had some ‘alone’ time in the the park at Devils Point. Once again it was me wondering at the surprising absence of other humans and canines while they just took it in their stride, reading the messages left by other dogs but never once looking up and exclaiming ” Wow we are such lucky dogs to have this beautiful place to ourselves”

The smell of toast and these beautiful views this morning were lovely pleasures that I was unable to share with another human and made me think about another ‘alone’ pleasure I had recently . A swimming pool that just had no-one else in it at the time I went swimming.

Am I odd to enjoy these moments of serendipitous alone pleasures? It’s easy enough to isolate myself from other humans but somehow a chance encounter with aloneness plus a pleasure is one of life’s joys.

However I also love to share things and of these three things the one I most wish to share is the intangible one. The smell of many toasty breakfasts wafting from homes eager to return to some form of normality. If only I could copy and paste a link for you to share the buttery, toasty, smell of normality this morning.

Pandemic Pondering #212

August was a blast. September is the month of holidays @theoldmortuary, but most importantly it’s the month of more interesting light and textures. This year September will be all texture and no holidays. The angle of the sun both in the mornings and evenings makes everything look a little bit more interesting. Trawling through my photo archive some gorgeous textures popped up. Textures are my references for abstract paintings. I stuck to textures photographed in past September’s to illustrate this blog.

The first one is a lovely Palimpsest photographed in Devonport. It is a traditional paper advert posterboard. I drive past it a lot , you have to catch it at the right time. Seemingly one team rips the old posters off and another one follows up and sticks the new one on. I drove past between the two visits and luckily got this lovely piece of serendipity.

The next two are also in Plymouth, one in a hotel and the other in a restaurant. I’ve stuck them together because that is what I do when I’m trying to work out the way forward in a painting.

Textured inspiration also comes from the preparation of food , another two stuck together, one coffee and one gravy.

A couple of years ago we went to a Jazz Festival in Nafplion in Greece.

The venue is an Art Centre and was also holding an exhibition of wedding dresses. Not normally something that would attract us , but I am so glad not to have missed it . The textures of the wedding dresses were amazing and deserve a blog on their own but there were also this colourful, textural piece that can brighten up this blog first.

I love the juxtaposition of beautifully crafted metal and plastic flowers.

If I wasn’t sticking to the ‘photographed in September’ rule I could share loads of pictures taken in European Cathedrals of ornate gold leaf work , gem encrusted and beautiful, with plastic flowers in a jam jar, close by,somewhat ruining the aesthetic.

Black and white texture comes from a negative image of a blackboard and plastic wrapped rolls of hay, looking other worldly in the sharp sunlight.

Finally a little pink texture, the Dahlias grow in our garden and the Crochet and cracked paint were an installation at Plymouth Art Weekender a couple of years ago.A city wide art festival held every September.

Despite Covid-19 the Art Weekender will be held in Plymouth this September.

Pandemic Pondering #211

August 2020 slips effortlessly into September 2020. No more Art Group prompts,back to more freestyle pondering. Todays pondering reflects back on the last day of August, a Bank Holiday in Britain, the last before Christmas. We started the day early for a sea swim. The tranquility of these pictures was captured just moments before masses of people descended on the pebble beaches of Devils Point.

Plymouth has had a fabulous Bank holiday weekend. We have been tourists, seeing our city from new perspectives. Enjoying the Mediterranean vibe of the Ocean city.

Love where you live.